The vision of forest sustainability as imagined by President James Madison at his Montpelier estate stood in contrast to the wanton resource extraction he observed in the early 1800s.  Today, those same forests are not only recovered and sustainability managed, but they now boast the commonwealth’s first Smart Phone Tree ID Trail.

Montpelier’s “Working Woods Walk” guides visitors through the Big Woods to a loop trail that explores various conservation management practices based on today’s best forest science. A new element of the walk features a technology-enhanced tree identification experience, using common smart phone technology. Adam Downing, a forester with Virginia Cooperative Extension, said “This is the first ID trail using QR codes in Virginia that I know of.”  The QR code, or Quick Response Code, is the trademark for a type of matrix barcode that is embedded with additional information.  QR codes can be used to provide quick access to additional information located on a website.

Virginia Master Naturalists worked with resource professionals from Virginia Cooperative Extension and Montpelier to assess the technology, develop content, and locate representative tree specimens. “Anyone with a smart phone can access additional information about the tree’s historical use and a link to Virginia Tech’s Tree ID Website,” according to Joy Andrews, project leader and certified master naturalist from the Old Rag Chapter.  Those who do not have smart phones can still enjoy the trail and will not be distracted from the ID signage.

The public is invited to explore the Working Woods at James Madison’s Montpelier for the first Working Woods Walk of 2012 at 2 p.m. on Sunday, April 15.  The two-hour, guided tour will start at the visitor’s center and proceed with a short walk through Montpelier’s Big Woods. Regular Montpelier admission fees apply.

Montpelier’s “Working Woods” is a cooperative project with The Montpelier Foundation, Virginia Master Naturalists, Virginia Cooperative Extension, the Society of American Foresters, Virginia Department of Forestry, the Ballyshannon Fund, Virginia’s Sustainable Forestry Initiative Implementation Committee, and Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment as partners in Virginia’s LEAF (Link to Education About Forestry) program.

For more information about the smart phone tree ID trail at Montpelier, contact Adam Downing at 540-948-6883.